Three Solutions Needed

Solar Power Satellite Concept ©Mafic Studios, Inc.

To borrow a phrase from Newt Gingrich, space-based solar power must become part of the “national conversation”. None of the presidential candidates mention space-based solar in their ideas for our energy future. Even Bill Richardson, former Secretary of Energy who published his views on our energy future in “Leading by Example”, does not even mention the concept of space-based solar power.

Do we need a nationally recognized spokesman (Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, John Glenn, John Young, Charles Simonyi, Tom Hanks, Mark Harmon, George H. W. Bush, Colin Powell, Norman Schwarzkopf, Al Gore, Burt Rutan, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Francis Everitt, Stephen Hawking, … ) to become the public “face” of space-based solar power? Do we need to hire a marketing or advertising firm to help get the word out on a national level? Do we need to hire a political consulting firm or a defense contractor consulting firm to help navigate the case for space-based solar power inside the beltway?

I learned that for every complex problem, there is a technical solution, a financial solution and a political solution. If you don’t answer all three, you don’t have a complete solution. There appears to be a lot of focus on the technical solution for space-based solar power (which of the three, I often think is the easiest to solve), but I’m not hearing or finding a lot on the financial or political solutions.

Help me help figure out “What comes next?” so we can get started on a complete solution for space-based solar power that will lead America to energy and fossil fuel independence and enhanced national security.

Image: Solar Power Satellite Concept ©Mafic Studios, Inc.

Space-Based Solar Power Radio Interview

My first exposure to the media as a self-appointed advocate for space-based solar power happened on December 28, 2007 on Dot Blum’s Atlanta radio show, Bright Spot. After many nights of preparation, the hour went by quickly and a few more citizens have now heard about space-based solar power and its potential to lead the way to energy independence for America and our allies.

If you missed the live broadcast of the show, you can listen to it right here! I would be grateful for your comments and suggestions on this interview.

15 MW of Solar Power at Nellis AFB

Nellis to save $1 million annually with use of solar panels

by 2nd Lt. Jennifer Richard
99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Solar panels at Nellis AFB

12/4/2007 – NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFPN)  — Officials from Nellis Air Force Base and SunPower Corp. are scheduled to finalize the commission of 15 megawatts in solar power to the base this month, making up North America’s largest solar photovoltaic power system. When complete, the solar power will save the base $1 million annually. (read the rest of the article here and a related article here)

I posted the following comment on Air Force Letters:

Comment: Nellis to save $1 million annually with use of solar panels
Congratulations to Nellis AFB, Nev.,  on their commitment to the clean and renewable energy source of ground-based solar power. I truly hope the Air Force and the entire Department of Defense are planning to take the next big step to space-based solar power. On Oct. 10, 2007, the National Security Space Office of the Pentagon issued a Phase 0 Architecture Feasibility Study titled “Space-Based Solar Power as an Opportunity for Strategic Security.” This study states that “technological challenges are closing rapidly and the business case for creating SBSP is improving with each passing year.” Space-based solar power is a game-changing technology which needs the Department of Defense to be an early adopter to help develop, demonstrate and utilize this unlimited source of clean energy.

Rob Mahan 1/2/2008

Space-Based Solar Power Interview

If you have visited C-SBSP recently, you might wonder if I have taken a sabbatical. On the contrary, I have been studying and preparing to be interviewed about space-based solar power on Dot Blum’s Atlanta radio show, “Bright Spot”. The show will air live on Friday, December 28, 2007 from 3 to 4 p.m. on AM 1620 and will be available a few days later on the station’s website, www.radiosandysprings.com. Below is a list of questions I will attempt to answer and do justice to the cause of space-based solar power.

Space-Based Solar Power Interview Questions

  • Why is energy independence for our country so important?
  • What is space-based solar power?
  • How does space-based solar power compare with other energy sources?
  • Are you saying we should focus only on space-based solar power?
  • What are the main hurdles to developing and deploying space-based solar power?
  • Who should be responsible for developing space-based solar power?
  • Who should be the first customers for space-based solar power?
  • Are there other reasons you believe we should be developing space-based solar power?
  • Where to you see space-based solar power over the next 100 years?
  • What made you decide to become an advocate for space-based solar power?
  • Why did you start the website “Citizens for Space Based Solar Power”?
  • What information is on the website “Citizens for Space Based Solar Power”?
  • What do you want other citizens to do to support space-based solar power?

Google’s Goal: RE<C

Google’s Goal: Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal

Google Press Release

Mountain View, California
Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Google announced a new strategic R&D initiative to develop ways to generate electricity from renewable technologies that will be cheaper than electricity generated from burning coal. As a major consumer of electrical power and a desire to be a green corporate citizen, Google projects that the anticipated investment of hundreds of millions of dollars will result in large scale renewable energy generating capabilities and a positive impact on their corporate bottom line.

Larry Page, Google Co-founder and President of Products, said “If we meet this goal and large-scale renewable deployments are cheaper than coal, the world will have the option to meet a substantial portion of electricity needs from renewable sources and significantly reduce carbon emissions. We expect this would be a good business for us as well.”

“Cheap renewable energy is not only critical for the environment but also vital for economic development in many places where there is limited affordable energy of any kind,” added Sergey Brin, Google Co-founder and President of Technology.

With the goal of developing one gigawatt of electricity (GWe) production capacity that is cheaper than coal, this is an excellent example of the private sector taking the initiative to develop and commercialize existing renewable energy technologies. According to the press release, one GWe could power a city the size of San Francisco.

Also stated in the press release, Google is on track to be carbon neutral for 2007. For more information on Google’s commitment to a clean energy future, see http://www.google.com/renewable-energy.

We should all contact Google’s Mr. Page and Mr. Brin and ask for their support and involvement with Space-Based Solar Power (SBSP) as a way to help reach their goals. They just might be very receptive to the idea. The video Moon 2.0, which explains the Google Lunar X-Prize, includes a cameo appearance by SBSP!

Space Review Article on SBSP & RLVs

The chicken and the egg: RLVs and space-based solar power

The Space Review

by Taylor Dinerman
Monday, November 19, 2007

Taylor highlights the interdependence of space-based solar power and low cost and reliable access to space. He poses questions about our Technology Readiness Level (TRL) to field a fleet of Reusable Launch Vehicles (RLV). His closing comment strikes a chord of critical importance:

“Any dramatic change in the cost of access to orbit will have huge effects on the world’s military and economic balance of power. The US cannot afford not to be the nation where that breakthrough is made.”

Response to SBSP Questions

In response to some questions about the feasibility and environmental impact of space-based solar power in a recent Tech Support Forum thread, I posted the following:

Thanks for taking the time to raise some good questions about space-based solar power. Here’s an attempt to provide a reasonable response and additional resources:The feasibility study released by the NSSO addressed these questions which others were asking, too. I agree that hope is not a plan, which is why I believe we need to encourage our political leaders to organize a well defined, long-range plan to acheive energy independence. SBSP offers a long-term solution to fossil fuels, the burning of which release a tremendous amount of CO2. To risk stating the obvious, our fossil fuel reserves are finite and will eventually run out.

The SBSP Study Group found that “to the extent the United States decides it wishes to limit its carbon emissions, SBSP offers a potential path for long-term carbon mitigation.” On page 14 of the study, the supporting statement is:

“Studies by Asakura et al in 2000 suggest that SBSP lifetime carbon emissions (chiefly in construction) are even more attractive than nuclear power, and that for the same amount of carbon emission, one could install 60 times the generating capacity, or alternately, one could replace existing generating capacity with 1/60th the lifetime carbon emission of a coal‐fired plant without CO2 sequestration.”

While energy will probably never be “cheap” again, I think the goal should be “affordable” … and available to everyone.

As far as efforts to develop additional capabilities in space, such as low cost and reliable access to space, in a recent Space Review article, Taylor Dinerman stated “Any dramatic change in the cost of access to orbit will have huge effects on the world’s military and economic balance of power. The US cannot afford not to be the nation where that breakthrough is made.”

I can’t agree more.